Black Widow Deserved Better

*This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame, Avengers, and Avengers: Age of Ultron.*

 

The Marvel Universe is full of strong female characters, both on the superhero side and the villain side. One of the most famous heroes is Black Widow, arguably due to Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of her in the Cinematic Universe. Unlike the “core three” Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, Black Widow never received much of a backstory. Having first appeared undercover in Iron Man 2, she gained prominence in the first Avengers movie. However, the audience only learns enough of her story to understand who she is and why she is there in order to advance the subplot of Hawkeye being brainwashed by Loki. She was a Russian spy that was recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D by Clint, or Hawkeye, so when he is compromised, this gives her a compelling reason to join the Avengers as a force against Loki. Simple enough.

In the comics, however, there is far more to Natalia Alianovna Romanova than the Avengers movie gives her credit for. “Natasha” was trained extensively for years in a Russian facility referred to as the Red Room, was bio- and psycho-technologically enhanced, and was even trained by the Winter Soldier for a short time. All of these compelling details, along with the rest of her storyline, are left out of the Cinematic Universe. The only mention we get of any of it, besides the “red in my ledger” discussion in the first Avengers, is in Avengers: Age of Ultron. During a conversation with Bruce Banner, more commonly known as the Hulk, Natasha discloses that she was trained in the Red Room and had to be sterilized by them. 

The inclusion of this detail is not necessarily done to further her character development, but rather to bring her closer to Bruce. He sees himself as a monster that cannot possibly have a family, and in telling him that she cannot have children, she labels herself one as she claims that he is not the only monster. Marvel could have taken the opportunity in Age of Ultron to further develop Natasha’s character. Instead, we got a Hulk/Widow romance and only a brief glimpse of her history, in the form of an illusion which Scarlet Witch created in her mind.

This all provides ample enough evidence as to why the Cinematic Black Widow deserved better. But that was before Avengers: Endgame. Leading up to the much-anticipated conclusion to the first three phases of the MCU, the film Captain Marvel was released in order to introduce the character prior to her appearance in Endgame. 

 

*Here is your second spoiler warning, as I will be going into depth about the plot of Endgame from here on out!*

 

And it is just that: an appearance. Captain Marvel starts off strong in the film by saving Tony and Nebula from certain death, but after Thanos gets his head chopped off and the Avengers have all but lost hope, she disappears for the next five years helping other planets recover from “the snap”. We then do not see her for the rest of the movie, until the giant fight sequence at the end where she swoops in to destroy Thanos’ ship and save the day. Why then, was Captain Marvel that important to include, that they had to rush to release an entire solo movie on the character right before Endgame’s release? 

Do not get me wrong — Captain Marvel is a great character that I was excited to be brought to the big screen — but it seemed only fitting for Black Widow to get a solo movie before the end of the first three phases. The character was already fairly recognizable, as she had been in subsequent Avengers and Captain America films following her first appearances, not to mention the large fanbase behind her. It would have been a perfect time to release a Black Widow solo movie, as it would not be a rush to develop a new character like it was with Captain Marvel. Black Widow was already an established, prominent character that people would have loved to go see before the heart-wrenching Endgame experience.

Sadly, Marvel did not take advantage of this opportunity either, and the events of Endgame have left the Cinematic Universe in a less than ideal situation. In Endgame, Black Widow sacrificed herself for the soul stone, dying on Vormir so that Hawkeye could return the stone to the Avengers in order to defeat Thanos. With the passing of Iron Man and the aging of Captain America, Endgame closed the curtain on many characters, ending the first three phases. 

Therein lies the problem: if the curtain is metaphorically closed on these characters, Widow included, how do they expect to release a solo Black Widow movie? Her character arc has come to a close, and she is left in the first three phases. A solo movie now, even though it would have been a flashback had it been released prior, will really feel like a flashback (a painful one at that) not only back into her past, but back into a whole past chapter of the MCU. The closing of her character arc had another problem as well.

Natasha has always been a selfless character. Every time that another Avenger is putting themselves down, she steps right in to tell them not to blame themselves. For example, when she was bleeding out from a gunshot wound in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, she puts her focus on Steve to tell him that it was not his fault for what happened to his friend Bucky Barnes. She had one of the most selfless character arcs in the MCU, especially with her death in Endgame. She sacrificed herself for the entire world, and she did not have any sort of funeral. All we get to see is the remaining five of the six core Avengers sitting by a lake mourning. It can be understood that she was an assassin, a spy, someone for whom a funeral may not seem befitting. But she deserved at the very least some act of memorium to show her character some respect, especially as that was essentially the end of her story.

Nothing ever remains final in the MCU, from deaths to disappearances, but what remains final is Natasha’s death and the placement of the Black Widow movie within the timeline of films. Had they released it earlier, they could have strengthened the character’s following leading up to her death, therefore garnering a more emotional impact than they arguably achieved. Instead, Marvel missed yet another opportunity at the suffering of one of their best characters, and frankly, Black Widow deserved better.